Law 165 - Social Science and the Constitution

Richard H. Sander

Richard H. Sander

Professor of Law
B.A. Harvard, 1978
M.A. Economics, Northwestern, 1985
J.D. Northwestern, 1988
Ph.D. Economics, Northwestern, 1990
UCLA Faculty Since 1989
Course Description:

Social science lurks in the background of many court decisions – especially in major cases involving broad social and regulatory questions – but doctrinal courses rarely have the leisure to delve into the making and interpretation of this research.  In this class, we will focus on how social science research has, over the past century, helped to shape seven or eight major Supreme Court decisions in constitutional law, focusing on decisions that range from economic regulation to the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.  We will examine how social science figured in the litigation strategy of the parties, how it is weighed and interpreted by the Supreme Court, and how the conduct and assumptions of the research itself has evolved over the past several generations.  The final two sessions will primarily focus on the Court’s jurisprudence on affirmative action and race-conscious remedies, and the use of social science in key cases.  No special background in social science or statistics is expected or assumed; the material covered will in many ways complement coverage in the spring semester course in Constitutional Law.  Readings will average 35 pages per week; in satisfying the course writing requirement, students will choose between (1) a 1300-word essay on the use of social science in a Supreme Court case not covered in class, or (2) submitting discussion questions before several of our sessions.

Course Specific Learning Outcomes:

Students will gain insight into evaluating the credibility of social science research, and the ways social science does and does not influence major Supreme Court holdings.

Course Information:
​Faculty Term Course Section ​Schedule ​Units Requisite Satisfies SAW
Richard Sander 19S 165 LEC 10 Unscheduled 1.0 No No